Takeaways from Tallahassee – Full court press – Florida Politics – Florida Politics (blog)
After nearly six years, Republican Gov. Rick Scott finally gets his chance to make a dent in the state Supreme Court’s “left-leaning cabal,” as one GOP lawyer privately (of course) called it.
Justice James E.C. Perry announced his retirement at the end of the year, creating an opening Scott must fill. Speculative journalism pieces soon appeared, laying odds on which candidates might get a look.
The seven-member court often splits 5–2 on matters of public policy. Justices Charles Canady and Ricky Polston are the court’s only consistently reliable conservative votes.
The question is, does the governor add a “Rick Scott conservative” or a “Republican Party conservative?”
“Scott has never been a party man,” said political expert Darryl Paulson, a retired professor of government at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. “He’s never really done much to help the party. So he’s likely to focus on someone he perceives as pro-business.”
Unless, as many suspect, Scott challenges Bill Nelson for his U.S. Senate seat in 2018.
“Then the pick takes a more important role,” Paulson said. “He may want a more traditionally conservative jurist to be acceptable to the conservative (voting) base.”
So far, only one person has applied: C. Alan Lawson, chief judge of the 5th District Court of Appeal. (Because Perry represented that appellate district, applicants must be from that area, which adds another wrinkle: Only residents of Brevard, Citrus, Flagler, Hernando, Lake, Marion, Orange, Osceola, Putnam, Seminole, St. Johns, Sumter, and Volusia counties can apply.)
At first blush, Lawson would seem to satisfy that base: When he applied previously for a seat on the high court, he was backed by “religious conservatives and the National Rifle Association,” according to a 2009 Tampa Tribune story.
No matter who gets the appointment, most right-leaning folk think something’s gotta give. Indeed, the court has